Building or renovating your dream home? While this can be an exciting time, it can also be very stressful. There are several steps you can take in the early stages to help prevent trouble down the track, however, if you are already in dispute with your builder, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Know your Contract
Disputes often arise when one or both parties are not completely aware of their obligations under the building contract. If a dispute does arise, review your contract so you understand your obligations. Every contract is different, but all provide for strict time frames for both parties to comply with. For example – time for the build to be completed, calculation of liquidated damages if the build goes over time, time frames for disputing Practical Completion.
2. Communicate clearly with your builder
One you are aware of your obligations under your contract, communicate your concerns clearly with the builder. While it is a difficult time and you are probably feeling stress, remember to keep emotions out of it for the best outcome, and advise the builder of your concerns in a clear and concise way. Keep in mind any time frames that may apply to you under your contract, and ensure you adhere to these time frames, if you do not, you may find that you are holding up processes which may have implications to you.
3. Consider referring the issues to QBCC
If you are unable to resolve the issues with your builder directly, consider using the Dispute Resolution Process available to you through QBCC. This is a free service where QBCC assists homeowners and builders to resolve disputes that arise.
If QBCC are unable to resolve the matter with you, they will provide you a certificate to confirm parties have attempted to resolve the matter. This is a compulsory step prior to commencing proceedings, in QCAT so if you feel that your matter may become litigious, taking a proactive approach is advisable.
4. Commencing proceedings in QCAT
If you are still unable to resolve the issue with your builder, the next step would be to commence proceedings in either QCAT (Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal) or the Magistrates Court. QCAT has an unlimited monetary jurisdiction for all residential building disputes. So whether its $500 or $5 million you can choose to commence proceedings in QCAT, if that suits you better than the Magistrates Court.
The QCAT process involves filing and serving an Application, then the builder filing a response. QCAT will then hold a conciliation conference where both parties are given the opportunity to resolve the matter amicably. If a resolution cannot be reached, QCAT will then require both parties to file all of their evidence (witness and expert statements) and list the matter for a hearing.
If you have concerns about how your own build is progressing, it is always best to act early. Melissa Ban is a Building and Construction expert with MDL and WSL’s property and commercial teams, you can get in touch with Mel if you would like to discuss your own situation.
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